September 17, 2016 Top Story

Bad Faith Deletion of Emails Warrants Punitive Sanctions

Decision emphasizes severity of punishment possible when senior managers destroy evidence

Joseph Laizure

A federal court decided deletion of emails by a senior manager during litigation should result in multi-million dollar punitive sanctions under amended Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37. This decision highlights the choices that companies must make when preserving electronically stored information (ESI) and the significant consequences when they choose poorly.

In GN Netcom, Inc., v. Plantronics, Inc., the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware imposed $3,000,000 in punitive sanctions after one of the defendant's senior managers deleted tens of thousands of emails. The plaintiff's motion sought the imposition of sanction notwithstanding the fact that the defendant had issued a litigation hold, updated that litigation hold, and held trainings for its employees to promote compliance with the litigation hold.

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